Most drinking-age Delawarians have their Dewey phase. For some, it lasts a summer, while for others, it spans years. The story is usually the same: Fun while it lasted, but it got old. Too many hangovers. Too many mornings of turning out an empty wallet.
In the wake of last week’s cover article, a few residents accused me of embellishing the hedonism and alcoholic intensity of the Dewey Beach nightlife. I was indignant – I was there, I wanted to say, like a Vietnam vet. I saw things.
I stopped going to Dewey for a reason. It stopped being fun. But I wonder if my perspective wasn’t colored, a bit. Did I forget that, during the summer of 2007, Dewey Beach was my best friend?
With my senior thesis looming that fall, I found a cushy job sitting in a booth, selling tickets for fishing headboats. Easy hours – most of my shifts started in the early noon. Plenty of time to read. And suck down a gallon of ice water.
Nearly every night, the question was not if, but when I was going to Dewey Beach, and which bar.
Certain nights were delegated to certain bars. Tuesdays belonged to Northbeach, where dollar night gave the bar the singular distinction of being fiscally responsible. Wednesdays found me at The Starboard, where I could drink gin and hear Laura Lea and Tripp Fabulous play songs I listened to on the way to middle school. Thursday – The Rusty Rudder for Love Seed Mama Jump, on the deck, no cover. Friday, Saturday – everywhere.
And I loved it – I loved it in the hazy, half-drunk way your heart gloms onto a pretty brunette in a sundress, imagining only possibilities. I would get quiet sometimes, staring out at the bay, feeling a warm, brackish-scented breeze blowing from inland. I would get frankly and unapologetically sentimental.
Dewey was nothing but kind to me. I was never mugged, bounced or overcharged. I always had a backseat to stagger into, and I always woke up in a bed, not a holding cell. Crowds didn’t crush, they teemed; bathrooms weren’t disgusting, they were shabby (and yes, for those disputing few, there was piss, vomit and broken glass on the floor. It was there. I saw it. And if that doesn’t warm some distant part of your heart, you should be ashamed).
I think it was the throat-closing reality of graduating into a recession that hardened me to the Dewey nightlife. I can’t toss around my debit card as lightly as I used to. I have trouble psychologically immersing myself in the crowd. And around closing time, there’s the certainty of a hangover to smother my bonhomie.
But that isn’t Dewey’s fault. I’m learning to wear my Dewey Veteran status like an old shirt with sentimental value, holes in the armpits and half the stitching undone – with good humor, and without resentment.